There is a growing interest across the telecom industry today with Network Functions Virtualization (NFV). NFV is being evaluated in labs across the world and piloted for production rollout. In particular, larger service providers are steering their strategies around NFV to get in front of the pack and give themselves the agility they lack against the smaller and more aggressive players. A second key driver for NFV is to reduce costs while maintaining carrier class service assurance. With the fast arrival of NFV, are the current OSS & BSS tools in use today going to work in the future when NFV goes mainstream? If so, will they give the operational benefits management is anticipating to achieve with NFV or just keep doing the same thing? Let’s explore the challenges and new opportunities to achieve with service assurance in an NFV environment.The main business benefits of NFV are as follows:
- CAPEX: Service Providers will be purchasing commodity hardware based on x86 architecture running Linux and hypervisors bringing the benefits of virtualization; instead of running network functions on expensive proprietary hardware.
- OPEX: operational costs will provide the bulk of cost savings with greater automation. When service orchestration, automated root cause analytics, service impact analytics, and automated service remediation replace the current manual processes of many service providers; then NFV will become effective. Orchestration is required for full service management from provisioning of resources to de-activation and service changes to meet customer changing requirements over the life of a service. Next a real-time automated root cause analysis tool will reduce the burden most operations staff has to identify faults or network congestions. Operations staff is overwhelmed with the millions of daily events unable to identify faults in the network. Furthermore, the complexity of networks makes it impossible to know the service impact of such faults. Then the 3rd element for NFV operations requires to automate remediation of services through new software tools that get invoked when root causes are identified, service impact is understood and remediation steps are executed based on the knowledge of the environment.
- Competitiveness: it’s obvious with lower operational costs. More competitive prices can be offered but that’s not all. The big competitive advantage comes from the fact service providers will be able to activate services faster than today (seconds instead of days). Self-service portals will be given to customers to choose services, expand or contract them as needed on the fly, automatically without the intervention of personnel. More efficient use of hardware resource to provide users greater performance and service providers will have the flexibility to move network functions anywhere in the network; edge, core, backhaul… by virtue of virtualization.
- Accurate metering and billing: in a world where everything is virtualized, it becomes difficult to know how much of the actual physical resources are used. Accurate metering of service usage results in better pricing and gives service providers the opportunity for greater profits.
Now let’s look into the NFV architecture required for Service Assurance to higher levels.
Service Assurance Component
This component is the brain of the overall system performing complex analytics to ensure SLAs are met and efficiencies are at their highest. It is designed to monitor the infrastructure for faults, congestion, anomalies, and service impacts. Then problems are automatically root caused, service impact is assessed in real-time, and remediation is automatically initiated to counter impact to end users. When the root cause is equipment failure or insufficient hardware resources, a ticket is automatically created to engage the support staff to replace/repair the defective hardware component or initiate the request to add hardware resources.
The operational value is to ensure the highest possible service levels with minimal costs.
Inventory & Topology Component
This next component is at the heart of system mapping all the elements of the infrastructure to allow orchestration, service assurance and network functions to do their job with accuracy. This component first maintains a detailed and accurate listing of the infrastructure, applications and service catalog. A thorough topology is maintained mapping the relationship of the various network elements, activated services, physical/virtual network relationships in real-time.
Its operational value is to provide accurate and detailed information about the service provider systems without human intervention to maintain a correct listing.
This is not a fully automated component because it requires human intervention to request new services, approve service changes and other input functions to serve end-users and administrators. However, there is a great deal of automation to provision services with great turnaround time (seconds instead of days) and programmatically interact with the network infrastructure with no human intervention.
EMC’s Service Assurance Answers to NFV
EMC is well positioned with its current Service Assurance Suite of products to offer automated root cause analysis, discovery and topology service, impact analysis and a rich API to allow external systems to integrate and customize solution to the specific business needs.
Furthermore, EMC is leading the investment into Openstack to drive service orchestration and interface uniformly with other parts of the infrastructure to drive automation. EMC is also investing into high performance analytics to offer real-time results to automatically remediate problems before SLAs and user experience is affected.
Finally the journey for service providers toward NFV will transform them to build IT organizations similar to today’s enterprise IT organizations. With x86 platform at the core of NFV values, the transformation of network functions from proprietary hardware to commodity x86 hardware running in large datacenters will require service providers to rely on vendors such as EMC with expertise with data center management.
There is a lot of activity happening around NFV and EMC is leading the charge, to learn more, the TMForum Digital Disruption event Dec 8-11th in San Jose CA is the place to be and EMC will have a presence at this year's event. If you can't make it to the event, there are other opportunities to learn more, download this analyst brief on Service Assurance or join our next webcast on Service Assurance on December 11th by following this link: http://bit.ly/1EuMSGs